I contacted a stranger today, who I found on the internet. I checked out their profile and decided that I would like to start a relationship with them. Internet dating? No. Shape America’s revamped Mentor Match program? Yes, indeed.
I wouldn’t be the teacher I am today without the support of family, friends, teachers and even my students. And I wouldn’t be the teacher I am today without the help of a few influential mentors who have acted as my compass, guiding me in the direction towards becoming a master teacher.
I would argue that there is a fine line between a well meaning co-worker who looks out for you and a mentor who meets with you regularly, perhaps has received training and maybe even a stipend. Don’t get me wrong, both individuals have your best interests in heart and I still remember the hot meals and occasional beverage bought for me by colleagues not living on a first year teacher salary and juggling student loan payments. However, in order for the mentor/protégé relationship to be productive there needs to be a commitment to a structured exchange between two individuals, both of whom will grow as a result of the arrangement.
The school in which I work has exactly that sort of mentor program and all new teachers, irrespective of length of career are expected to remain in the program for four years. Admittedly there were times when I felt that the 18 years of teaching under my belt were reason enough to not be involved in such a program but the fault there was mine. My wavering commitment meant that I developed a cynical view at times. Thankfully those thoughts were brief and my four mentors all ensured that my early years at the school (and journey towards tenure) were fruitful.
Paired up with a different teacher each year, not necessarily from the same department, we met regularly and discussed my professional goals, my subject knowledge and pedagogy, my understanding of adolescent development, my knowledge of ethical and legal teaching obligations and my understanding of the school and local community. My mentor not only received training, but also a small stipend to thank them for their efforts. There is obviously a relationship between commitment and financial compensation, and the professional development and release time for the mentor makes a powerful statement about the value of the work and its significance in the school community.
As my desire to extend my influence beyond the four walls of my classroom increases and I seek out teacher leadership opportunities, signing up for #mentormatch on the SHAPEAmerica website made sense to me. As a benefit offered to SHAPE America members Mentor Match allows mentors and protégés to network, find each other, collaborate and develop professionally. With a series of guideline documents and a video tutorial, the initial process itself was very simple. Having entered my details, and then my protégé search criteria I was presented with a list of names, some of whom I recognized from social media. I chose a name, and sent them an introductory email. And that’s where I am right now. As our relationship blossoms I hope to tell you all about it.
Update: My protégé said yes! And Shape America tweeted me good luck…note the hashtag!
Here are this week’s #slowchathealth questions:
Q1 In what way have you benefited from a mentor during your career? #slowchathealth
Q2 What are the most important qualities to have as a mentor? #slowchathealth
Q3 What are the most important qualities to have as a mentee/protégé? #slowchathealth
Q4 What does you school offer in the way of mentorship? #slowchathealth
Q5 If you haven’t done so, check out the #SHAPEAmericaMentorMatch page #slowchathealth